NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Grand Ole Opry is going north. The famous venue for country music is branching out of Tennessee for the first time its 91-year history with a new restaurant and venue in Times Square.
Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc., which owns the Opry House and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, on Thursday announced plans to open the Opry City Stage around April 2017, which will feature retail space, a listening room and private event space, a bar and a restaurant.
Colin Reed, chairman and CEO, said Ryman hopes to expand the country music-themed concept to other tourist-heavy cities, but they wanted to start in New York.
"There are about a 100 million consumers who love country music all across the country," Reed said. "Times Square happens to be the place where between 40 and 50 million tourists go through that market. So we thought we'd start in a place as big and dominant as Times Square."
Promoters of country music have been trying to plant a permanent flag in New York for decades with mixed success. A country music festival called Farmborough was cancelled after just one year in 2015, but a country radio station returned to the city's airwaves in 2013 for the first time since 1996.
Vince Gill, a longtime Grand Ole Opry member and unofficial ambassador of the genre, said New York is a strong market for country music.
"Garth Brooks played there at Central Park one time and had about 88 million people there, I think," Gill said. "So yeah, they love country music up there."
Visitors will be able to watch live performances at the Opry City Stage, or watch Grand Ole Opry performances from Nashville via screens. The Bluebird Cafe, the songwriter venue in Nashville, and the Nashville Songwriters Association International, will also help curate performances in the venue.